Friday, 13 February 2009

Monkeys Wedding

Growing up in Africa, there is a funny describing those weirdly wonderful weather moments when the sun is shining and it rains lightly as a "monkeys wedding". As kids, we would shout this with glee, whenever we experienced a sunshower. I always pictured in my minds eye a host of well dressed monkeys celebrating their unions in the trees, wearing white lace and top hats and tails.

The expression is what linguists call a loan translation of the Zulu "umshado wezinkawu", meaning a wedding for monkeys. Similar sayings or proverbs exist in a surprising number of languages it turns out. A great many of them have animal associations, often to do with marriage (or that activity for which the word marriage may be considered a suitable euphemism!).

Michael Quinion, in "World Wide Words", goes on to say that in Arabic, they say “the rats are getting married”, while Bulgarians prefer to speak of bears doing so; in Hindi it becomes “the jackal’s wedding”; in Calabria, it is said that “when it rains with sun, the foxes are getting married”, for which there’s a similar phrase in Japanese; Koreans refer to tigers likewise; there’s even an English dialect term, “the foxes’ wedding”, known to come from right here in the South West of Britain it seems.
No-one seems to know how, where or why the expression arose. There’s clearly a common association understood and in use by widely divergent language communities, so it seems to be something at a level below that of superficial culture. But what is it?
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Julia Guthrie said...

Monkeys wedding..haha...I love that Jo!:)
(Monkeys are a bit of a thing in this creatures:))

Beholden-To-Nature (Kenna) said...

hmmm... interesting. Why IS there this similarity spread throughout so many languages and cultures? Something *else* to add to my list of ponderings unanswered...

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